Welcome back for another in season blog post from It’s Brewin at McEwen. We’re going to try and make this a weekly if not bi-weekly thing. Make sure you subscribe to our email list below to make sure you don’t miss any of the content.
For this article, we want to share our takeaways from the weekend series against Bradley University and also take a look ahead at the upcoming midweek game with FIU.
- What are your main takeaways from the Bradley series?
Game 1 – Bulls won 6 to 3 – Freshmen Put the Team on Their Back
Mark’s response (@usfbaseballfans): The Bulls got a solid start out of Orion Kerkering and 3 home runs (5 RBIs) from a pair of freshmen to lead them to victory.
Jasiak Misses a Start, Kerkering Steps Up (By Mark)
Friday night’s game was started by USF’s recently converted closer, Orion Kerkering. After spending all of 2021 as USF’s closer, Orion made his third start of the season on Friday night. This led many USF fans to question, where is Jack Jasiak? I was able to reach out to USF’s pitching coach, Karsten Whitson, and he told me that Jack is fine, they are just giving him rest. Jasiak did not appear at all during the Bradley series. I’ll definitely be looking closely to see if he appears this weekend against Mercer.
Orion Kerkering made his first ever collegiate Friday night start and he certainly delivered. The sophomore right handed pitcher gave the Bulls 5.2 innings and struck out 8 batters. When he walked off the mound in the top of the 6th inning, the Bulls held a 3 to 1 lead with 2 outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd. Nolan Hudi then entered in relief and yielded a 2 out base hit to allow both baserunners to score. Hudi did record the final out of the inning and worked a clean top of the 7th showing good resilience while facing adversity.
Brodil and Mayo Lead the Offense (By Mark)
The story of the Friday night game against Bradley was the stellar performances of two of the Bulls left handed hitting freshman outfielders. Marcus Brodil, the freshman from Dunedin, FL started the game at DH and batted 6th. Jackson Mayo, the freshman from Jacksonville, FL started the game at left field and batted 8th. The two young guys would combine to reach base safely in 8 of their 10 plate appearances.
However, they weren’t just getting on base, the lefties were doing serious damage at the plate. In the bottom of the 2nd, Jackson Mayo destroyed a first-pitch fastball and pulled it over the right field scoreboard for a solo home run and a 2 to 1 Bulls lead. Then, on a full count with 2 outs in the bottom of the 5th, Marcus Brodil ripped a home run to deep center field to extend the Bulls lead to 3 to 1.
After Bradley had tied the game up at 3 to 3 in the top of the 6th, Jackson Mayo delivered again in the bottom of the 7th. This time Mayo went oppo for his 2nd home run of the night and 3 RBIs to help the Bulls reclaim the lead (6 to 3) that they would never relinquish.
The combination of twin sophomore sensations Tanner Mink and Hunter Mink would go on to close the game. More on them a bit later in the article.
Game 2 – Bulls lost 10 to 4 – A Day to Forget
Mark’s response (@usfbaseballfans): The Bulls played a sloppy game and struggled to hit until the last inning. Days like this happen. I just have one takeaway from this game regarding defense.
Defensive Experiments (By Mark)
I definitely understand the need to experiment and see how different players respond in different defensive positions early in the season. At the end of the day, the main purpose of non-conference play is to prepare for the more important conference play (starts on April 1st vs. UCF). The coaches need to do everything they can to figure out their best 9 for the biggest games.
The positions I’ve noticed that the Bulls have tinkered with the most are 1st base and 2nd base. On Friday night, Roberto Pena started at 1st and Matt Ruiz started at 2nd. Then, on Saturday Daniel Cantu started at 1st and Ben Rozenblum started at 2nd.
With all of these changes everyday, it feels like players are having a hard time with all the nuances that come along with each specific position. At 1st base, making reads on bunts, determining your positioning, and covering pick offs are nuanced skills that come with frequent game experience. At 2nd base, there are a lot of similar nuances that are learned by playing the position everyday.
I would like to see the Bulls determine a starting infield and stick with it because conference play is less than 3 weeks away. I’ll be keeping a close eye on how we line up in the infield this week.
Game 3 – Bulls won 8 to 7 – Bulls Keep Fighting
A Gritty Effort Leads to a Win (By Mark)
Sunday was a very interesting game. The Bulls jumped out to an early 4 to 0 lead in the bottom of the 2nd inning. The Bulls got their runs via a 2 out base hit by Drew Brutcher which drove in 2 runs and then a wild pitch and fielding error allowed the Bulls to tack on 2 more runs before the inning ended. It felt like the Bulls were well on their way to another series win. However, the tide turned in the top of the 4th inning.
Beyond the Box Score – Vega Pitches Well (By Mark)
I felt like the Bulls actually got a pretty good start out of freshman right handed pitcher Dylan Vega. He held Bradley hitless through 3 innings. He was working quickly, confidently and inducing a lot of weak ground balls. In the 4th inning, he surrendered hits to the first two batters but he settled down and was able to get 2 outs while only yielding 1 run via sac fly. It looked like Dylan was going to get out of the inning with minimal damage but then he got some back luck.
Bad Luck, It Happens Sometimes (By Mark)
With 2 outs in the 4th and 2 base runners on, Dylan did what he normally does which is induce the other team into hitting a weak ground-ball. Unfortunately, this particular ground ball decided to hit the first base bag at a weird angle and then the ball was propelled into foul territory out towards the right field.
Without the weird bounce, our first baseman could have made a play and ended the inning. Dylan would have only allowed 1 run through 4 innings which I think is more indicative of how good he is pitching right now.
The Comeback Kids (By John)
While an early 4-run lead was quickly erased in the top of the 4th inning and then became a deficit after Bradley scored a run in each of innings 5 through 7, the Bulls came stampeding back for an electric finish at The Red.
Rally to Tie the Game (By John)
Carmine Lane saw a 13-game hit streak snapped on Friday night, & in response completely snapped on Sunday starting with an RBI double in the bottom of the 8th inning down 7-4. Later in the inning, with 2 men on, Mr. Moneyball, Ben Rozenblum, ripped a ball through the 5-6 hole scoring two more to tie the game up at 7.
The Walk Off (By John)
After Hunter Mink did Hunter Mink things in the top of the 9th, the Bulls went down in order for the first two outs of the inning. Now we ‘skip to the good part’, a situation every ball player dreams of growing up. Bottom of the ninth, two outs, tie ball game – the game hanging the balance. Up walks Niner & the rest was history, as the man, the myth, the legend, Carmine Lane absolutely shreds a 396ft, no doubt shot over the left field wall for the walk-off victory in stunning fashion.
There truly are no words to accurately describe the magic surrounding this moment & the start to the season #9 is having, but I am here for every single bit of it!
Twin Killing (By John)
The swag is sensational, the flow is phenomenal, and their pitching has been even better. While the middle of our bullpen still has some kinks to work out, the back end of this bullpen may as well be known as ‘No-Kink-Mink.’ This weekend, these two combined for 4.1IP, 5H, 6K, & 1BB, surrendering only 1 unearned run in the process. Not only was it an incredible series for the twins, but the entire start to this season has been highlighted by their lights out performances.
The Original Mink (By John)
First, lets talk about Tanner Mink. Now in his 3rd year at USF, and only his 2nd season as a pitcher, Tanner has shown great progression since last season. Appearing in 7 games thus far, #24 has posted a 4.50 ERA in 6IP, which is an inflated number related to one forgettable outing against a Boston College team that was simply on fire at the plate. This season, Tanner has only surrendered 5 hits, while fanning 6, & limiting free passes to hitters with just 2 walks. Tanner is a staple to this bullpen & the roster as a whole.
The New Mink (By John)
As for his twin brother, Hunter Mink, who transferred from UF to USF this past offseason, he has stepped up in a major way for this squad. When Orion Kerkering, USF’s former closer, got called to the starting rotation, #12 has seamlessly filled that role with absolutely zero misstep. Also appearing in 7 games thus far this season, the redshirt sophomore has been absolutely dealing. In 10IP, he has tallied 18K coupled with just 3 walks, oh and one more minor detail, 0ER in that span. Every time this kid steps on the mound, he impresses me more & more. Retired or not, TB12 better make room, because Hunter is pushing to be the new GOAT in Tampa Bay.
Random Notes from the Weekend (By Mark)
Interesting week for Daniel Cantu – The sophomore right fielder, who is one of the top hitters for the Bulls (.943 OPS) had a unique week. Through the first 4 games of the week (2 vs. BC and 2 vs. Bradley) he was held hit-less (0 for 7) but he somehow managed to actually raise his on base percentage during that span. Cantu reached base in 8 of his 15 plate appearances in those 4 games, walking 5 times and being hit by a pitch 3 times. On Sunday, he had a little break-out going 2 for 4 with a double. I think he’s heating up. Look out for a big week.
Looking Ahead at FIU (By John)
To finish up an out of conference home & home series, the Bulls take on a 7-10 FIU team with the first pitch scheduled for 6 pm tonight in Miami.
Making his 2022 season debut for the Panthers, redshirt senior Christian Santana faces off against freshman Jack Cebert for the Bulls. Cebert looks to continue to build off of his last start versus Boston College on March 9th, in which he tossed 4 scoreless frames allowing only 3 hits in the process.
In their last meeting on March 1st, USF shut out the Panthers 7-0, highlighted by the start from Orion Kerkering where he tossed 5.1 innings of 2 hit baseball, striking out 9 in the process.
The Bulls look to stay hot tonight as they arrive in Miami riding the high from the walk-off victory on Sunday. Good luck to our boys in green & gold – horns all the way up!